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Christchurch City Council appoints Dr Lesley McTurk as new CEO

12 February 2003

Dr Lesley McTurk, the former director of Hospital Services for Southern Cross Healthcare throughout New Zealand, has been appointed the new chief executive of Christchurch City Council. She will replace current city manager Mike Richardson, who has decided not to seek reappointment after completing two five-year terms. Dr McTurk will take up her position on the expiry of Mr Richardson's term on 1 July 2003.

The appointment of Dr McTurk was ratified at a special meeting of the full Council this afternoon after she made a presentation to councillors; the appointment was announced by the Mayor immediately afterwards. Dr McTurk was short-listed from 63 applicants for the position from all over New Zealand.

Dr McTurk, 49, has a PhD from the University of Glasgow, Scotland where she completed her post-graduate studies after gaining BA and MBA degrees from the University of Auckland.

As director of Southern Cross’s 11 private surgical hospitals and 33 operating theatres throughout New Zealand, she was responsible for some 1000 employees and managing stakeholder relationships with 700 medical specialists around the country. Within six years, until December 2002, her management strategies turned the hospital business around to make a commercially sustainable return on investment.

At the same time, Dr McTurk was responsible for a major capital investment in hospital improvements, including some $12 million spent on the refurbishment and additions to Southern Cross Hospital in Christchurch.

Prior to running the Hospitals division for Southern Cross, Dr McTurk was chief executive of Auckland’s Mercy Hospital, New Zealand’s largest private health facility, which she also turned to profitability. Before taking time out to attain her PhD, Dr McTurk was Auckland regional operations manager for the Christchurch-based United Building Society while also completing her MBA.

Announcing the appointment, Mayor Garry Moore said Dr McTurk had been attracted to Christchurch because of the good reputation and ethical standing of the City Council and the Council’s selection panel had been similarly attracted by her strong ethical values and sound business expertise, including significant experience in change management and visionary leadership.

“Her management and people skills are transferable into any sector,” Mr Moore said. “And the local government sector is undergoing significant change at present, so in many ways having a CEO with sound commercial leadership will give the Council an opportunity to shine. It will prepare us for the new Local Government Act, which will require amazingly different management skills.”

“The new Act requires someone who can bring about greater accountability, more consultation with the community, more participation with iwi in decision-making, and a triple bottom line focus on sustainability, as well as strong leadership and strategic vision,” he said. We are delighted to have found these qualities in Dr McTurk.”

Mr Moore said the panel also felt it would be an advantage that Dr McTurk came from outside Christchurch.

“As a city, we trade with the world. I think it will be good to have someone with a fresh perspective on our city, someone who can look at us objectively.”

In Christchurch yesterday, Dr McTurk said she was looking forward to taking on the role and welcomed the opportunity to live and work in Christchurch. “I will be joining the many New Zealanders migrating south to experience the real New Zealand,” she said.

“Christchurch is a stunning city. It has a heart, and a sense of integrity about it that is very attractive whereas Auckland is a rather fragmented place to live, “ she said. “Christchurch is a city with a robust infrastructure and is in sound financial health, so there is wide scope to add real value and enhance people's lives.

“The Mayor and Council have a vision which is inclusive of all citizens and values the diversity which makes communities vibrant. I like the Council’s commitment to the economic, environmental and social wellbeing and sustainability of the communities that make up the city,” she said.

”I look forward to looking outwards and strengthening links with the business community, as well as looking inwards and working with Council staff to provide excellence in customer service to the community.”

Mr Moore added that he was pleased with the way the councillors had run the selection process, objectively and transparently. It had been rewarding to be part of a team that put so much effort into getting the right person to lead the city.

As part of the selection process, the Council consulted with staff and with community and business leaders to find out the type of leadership they were looking for. Key qualities included strong and visionary leadership, a strong sense of ethics in business and in life, an open communicator.

Background notes:

  • Christchurch City Council serves a population of 325,000 with 1400 full time and 800 part time staff. It has annual revenues of approximately $260 million and assets of $3800 million.
  • The Council is the second largest city council in the country.
  • The Council owns, or part owns, six Local Authority Trading Enterprises:
    • Red Bus Ltd (100% owned)   
    • City Care Ltd (100%)
    • Orion Group Ltd (87.6%)
    • Selwyn Plantation Board (39.34%)
    • Christchurch International Airport (75%)
    • Lyttelton Port Company (65.46%)



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